Guide to Cat Breeds (See Full List)

Siamese

Siamese

Ancestry: Domestic cats of Siam
Place of Origin: Siam (now Thailand)
Date of Origin: Unknown
Accepted by: All North American cat associations (championship)

 
Description

With its big, baby blue eyes, beautiful and distinctive pattern, and sleek, super-short fur, the Siamese is the most universally recognized cat breed on the planet. They are graceful, elegant and long—long bodies, long heads, long tails, long necks, long legs. The unique, tubular body is fine-boned, trim, elongated, svelte and muscular. The head is a medium-size tapering wedge with a flat forehead and a fine, wedge-shaped muzzle. The wedge starts at the nose and flares out in straight lines to the tips of the ears, forming a triangle, with no break at the whiskers. In profile, a straight line can be drawn from the top of the head to the tip of the nose. Ears are very large, pointed, wide at the base and set wide on the head, continuing the lines of the wedge.

The neck is slender, the legs long and thin, and the tail is long and tapering, without kinks. The almond-shaped eyes are medium in size, uncrossed, and deep vivid blue. They are set not less than one eye width apart, with a slight slant toward the nose. Extreme males weigh 7 to 9 pounds; females weigh 5 to 7 pounds. Traditional males weigh 11 to 15 pounds; females weigh 8 to 12 pounds. Show cats cannot be flabby, bony, or fat. Balance and refinement are vital to the breed; all parts should come together into a harmonious whole, with neither too much nor too little consideration given to any particular feature.

Traditional Siamese are popular as pets, but they can be shown as pedigreed cats only in a few cat associations; UFO and TCA accept the Traditional Siamese under that name, CFF accepts the Traditional Siamese under the name "Old Style Siamese", and TICA accepts the Traditional Siamese under the name "Thai.". While they cannot be shown in any other organizations (except in the Household Pet category), Traditional Siamese can be registered as Siamese in some associations. According to Traditional fanciers, the Traditional is generally healthier and hardier, and lacks many of the inherited diseases and conditions found in some Extreme bloodlines.

The Siamese’s fine-textured coat is very short, silky and glossy, and lies close to the body. However, the defining feature of the breed is its pattern. In CFA and CCA, the Siamese comes in four coat colors: seal, chocolate, blue, and lilac, and one pattern—colorpoint, also called point restricted. Other associations accept the additional colors of red point, cream point, blue-cream point, lilac-cream point, and many colors in lynx point, tortie lynx point, and parti-color point. The points of the body—ears, face mask, feet and tail—are darker than the rest of the body due to a temperature-controlled enzyme that creates greater depth of color at the parts of the body farthest away from the heart. These areas are a few degrees cooler, and so the color is concentrated in those areas. There is a clear contrast between the light body color and the darker points, and all the color points must be the same shade. Body color generally darkens with age. Type is considered more important than color. There are no allowable outcrosses.

History

The Royal Cat of Siam has been around for many centuries, but no one knows for sure exactly when the breed originated. According to historical accounts, these living works of art were treasured in their native land for hundreds of generations and were the companions of royalty and religious leaders.

The Siamese was described and depicted in The Cat-Book Poems, which confirms that the breed has existed in Siam (now Thailand) for many centuries. The manuscript was written in the city of Ayutthaya, Siam, some time between 1350 when the city was founded and 1767 when the city was burned by Burmese invaders (the people, not the cat breed). The illustrations in the manuscript clearly show cats with pale coats and dark points on the ears, tails, faces, and feet.

Exactly when the document was written is unknown because the original, painstakingly handwritten and decorated with illustrations and gold leaf, was made of palm leaf or bark. When the document became too fragile, a fresh copy was made and the new scribe would sometimes bring his own interpretation to the work. This makes it difficult to date. But whether it was written more than 650 years ago or only about 250, it’s still very old—likely the oldest manuscript about cats in existence. A copy of The Cat-Book Poems is kept secured and preserved in Bangkok’s National Library.

Because the Siamese was so valued in its native land, the cats were rarely given to outsiders, so the rest of the world didn't become acquainted with the breed until the 1800s. Siamese cats were exhibited in 1871 in the first modern-style cat show at London's Crystal Palace. At the event, one journalist described the new breed as "an unnatural, nightmare kind of cat."

Others fell in love with the exotic breed’s unique color pattern and lithe, graceful body style. In spite of early naysayers and the difficulty of importing the cats, the Siamese rocketed to popularity in Europe. The first Siamese standard, written in 1892 in Great Britain, described the Siamese as "a striking-looking cat of medium size, if weighty, not showing bulk, as this would detract from the admired svelte appearance ... often distinguished by a kink in the tail." At that time, the admired svelte appearance was not nearly as lithe as the Extreme Siamese type of today. Kinked tails and crossed eyes were common, although both are now faults.

The Siamese was brought to the United States around 1890 and quickly became established with the growing American cat fancy. Although the cat fancy endured ups and downs during the troubled years of the Great Depression and World War II, the Siamese maintained its popularity and today is one of the most popular shorthaired breeds. According to CFA’s 2012 registration totals, the Siamese is the sixth most popular shorthair, and ninth most popular overall.

Notes

Siamese are generally healthy and it’s not uncommon for them to live up to 15 and sometimes to 20 years if kept indoors. However, like many breeds, some lines have genetic problems that have been concentrated through years of selective breeding. In particular, hereditary liver amyloidosis has been found in some Siamese bloodlines. The disease causes insoluble fibrous proteins called amyloid to be deposited in the liver, which can cause lesions, dysfunction, liver failure, liver rupture and hemorrhage, resulting in death. The spleen, adrenal glands, pancreas, and the gastrointestinal tract also may be affected. Siamese affected by this disease usually develop symptoms of liver disease when they are between one and four years of age, which include loss of appetite, excessive thirst, vomiting, jaundice, and depression. No cure has been found, but medication can slow the disease’s progression, particularly if it is diagnosed early.

In addition, incidences of dilated cardiomyopathy, an enlargement of the heart muscle that over time decreases heart function, have been found in some lines of Siamese. This disease as yet has no cure but its progression may be slowed with treatment—ultrasound and electrocardiograms can be used to diagnose the disease.

In addition, some Siamese lines are prone to plaque buildup, tartar formation, and gingivitis. Gingivitis can lead to the dental disease periodontitis (an inflammatory disease affecting the tissues surrounding and supporting the teeth), which can cause tissue, bone, and tooth loss. Untreated, dental disease can undermine a cat’s overall health. Siamese need dental exams with their annual veterinary checkups, periodic teeth cleaning by your veterinarian and, if your cat will tolerate it, regular tooth brushing using cat toothpaste and a cat toothbrush or soft child’s size toothbrush. A gauze pad wrapped around your finger will work just as well, and can be easier to control than a toothbrush.

Also, Siamese have been found to have higher susceptibility to malignant mammary tumors—twice the risk compared to other breeds—which can spread to nearby glands and lymph nodes. They tend to develop such tumors at a younger age than is usual. Fortunately, spaying your cat before six months of age results in a 91 percent reduction in risk. Spaying before one year results in an 86 percent reduction. But spaying after two years doesn’t reduce the risk at all, given the early development of the disease.

In addition, some Siamese lines are prone to plaque buildup, tartar formation, and gingivitis. Gingivitis can lead to the dental disease periodontitis (an inflammatory disease affecting the tissues surrounding and supporting the teeth), which can cause tissue, bone and tooth loss. Untreated, dental disease can undermine a cat’s overall health. Siamese need dental exams with their annual veterinary checkups, periodic teeth cleaning by your veterinarian and, if your cat will tolerate it, regular tooth brushing using cat toothpaste and a cat toothbrush (a soft child’s size toothbrush can also be used).

Crossed eyes, also called "the Siamese squint," still can be found, but careful breeding has eliminated the trait in many lines. However, the eye problem seems connected to the pointed pattern and is therefore hard to completely eliminate.

This is not to say your Siamese will develop all or any of these conditions and diseases. However, it’s wise to ask your potential breeder how carefully she screens her breeding stock. Discuss these diseases and conditions with your breeder before agreeing to buy, and ask what steps she has taken to insure the health of her cattery’s kittens. Buy from a breeder who provides a written health guarantee.

Did you know?

Due to its popularity and unique colors, patterns and personality traits, the Siamese has been used to create many modern cat breeds, including the Ocicat, Himalayan, Burmese, Tonkinese, Snowshoe, and a variety of Oriental breeds, including the Oriental Shorthair, Oriental Longhair, Colorpoint Shorthair, and Balinese.

Personality

Siamese are extremely friendly, highly intelligent, and totally attached to their human companions. According to fans, Meezers (as Siamese are affectionately known) are the most wonderful, loving, entertaining cats in the known universe. Don’t be surprised to see your Siamese grinning down at you like the Cheshire Cat from the top of your window treatments or your highest book shelf.

Siamese are cats with attitude. Of course, all cats have attitudes, but this breed has more, say fanciers. They are more acrobatic, devoted, sociable, playful and more likely to behave as though their humans belong to them instead of the other way around. Relentlessly social, Siamese are constant companions who give 200 percent of their unwavering loyalty and love. And many can learn behaviors usually reserved for the canine crowd, such as walking on a leash—although they generally walk you. They love being cuddled and enjoy riding on shoulders, lounging on laps and following their favorite family members around the house. They particularly enjoy a good game of fetch and usually teach their humans how to play. The Siamese personality is not for everyone, but for those who want a loving, chatty cat who is perpetually in motion and won’t tolerate being ignored, the Siamese is the perfect choice.

They are the most talkative cats; don’t consider this breed if you think cats should be seen and not heard. Fanciers say their attention-getting yowls are not meaningless vocalizations but real attempts to communicate with their beloved human companions. They become even more vocal if you talk back (this is true of most cats). When you return from earning the cat food, fanciers say your Meezer will tell you everything that happened while you were gone and scold you for neglecting your royal companion. Since they are vocal cats, they are also sensitive to your tone—harsh reprimands hurt their feelings. Their distinctive, raspy yowl can be annoying to some, but to Siamese fanciers this is prized as a unique trait. Traditional Siamese are similar in temperament, but fanciers say they are not quite as vocal or active.

Siamese are usually good family pets and are tolerant of children six and older, as long as the children are taught how to properly handle cats and don’t play too rough. Meezers can bond with children as well as they do with adults. How well they get along with dogs depends upon the Meezer and the dog; talk to your breeder about their lines’ tolerance for other animals. However, if you must spend much time away from home, a compatible cat companion will keep your Meezer from becoming lonely and bored.

Breed Characteristics

Size:Medium.
Coat Length(s):Short hair.
Body Type:Svelte.
Grooming Requirement:Little grooming needed.
Talkativeness:Very vocal.
Activity Level:Very high.
Affection:Very affectionate.
Usually Good With:Adults, seniors, and children (6+).
Time Alone:0 to 4 hours per day.
Attention:Needs lots of attention.
Handling:Can be a handful.